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Broncos notebook

Familiar face will be lined up

Hochstein starts after Kuper injury

By Julian Benbow and John Powers
Globe Staff / January 11, 2012
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - There’s no telling how much money would pile up if everyone in the Patriots organization paid a dollar every time someone said, “It is what it is.’’

Russ Hochstein hasn’t been in that locker room in three years, but the phrase still slips out of his mouth every few sentences.

Thoughts on Josh McDaniels?

“That is what it is.’’

Differences between Tim Tebow and Tom Brady?

“It is what it is.’’

Controlling turnovers?

“It is what it is.’’

Some habits are hard to shake.

“I’ll tell you this, if you threw a few dollars in there, you never know,’’ Hochstein said. “I learned it a long time ago, and it’s true a lot of times. It’s hard to sit there. You can’t prepare or predict anything because none of us know.’’

Hochstein won Super Bowls with the Patriots in 2004 and 2005, when Tom Brady was laying down the foundation of what has become a Hall of Fame career. Hochstein has been in Denver since 2009, and now he’s on a Broncos team making an improbable playoff run behind another star quarterback.

“It will always be a great memory for me,’’ Hochstein said. “I was a part of some great runs and great memories and I still have a few friends that play there. So I have a lot of great memories and that’ll never go away.

“But we’re here now and we’re trying to make [memories] here.’’

Hochstein is the quintessential veteran lineman, playing every position except left tackle. He has played 15 games this season and will make his first start Saturday, filling in for right guard Chris Kuper, who was placed on injured reserve after sustaining a gruesome left leg fracture against the Chiefs in the last game of the regular season.

“We miss Kupe terribly,’’ said Hochstein. “He was a phenomenal leader here and we miss him a lot. We wish it wouldn’t have happened, but I’ve tried to step in and play my role that I’m supposed to, and that’s to help out in situations like this.’’

After spending six seasons in New England, Hochstein was traded to Denver in 2009, when McDaniels took over as coach.

Seeing Tebow become his own phenomenon this year reminded Hochstein of the special seasons he experienced in New England.

“I’ve been very fortunate to be in a few Super Bowl runs, and going back to the hype and things that surround that, there are some characteristics that are similar to that,’’ he said.

But he didn’t want to compare Tebow and Brady.

“That’s apples and oranges,’’ he said. “Two different teams and things like that. They’re both good players, both good leaders, and both will find a way to win no matter what they can do.’’

The Broncos’ one-play overtime win over the Steelers in the opening round of the playoffs was the latest in a season full of miracle victories, but it’s nothing Hochstein hasn’t been through before.

“It was what it is,’’ he said. “If you’re successful, you’re still playing, and that’s really what matters.’’

No coaching concerns

Given the constant game of musical chairs among NFL staffs, the Broncos aren’t concerned that McDaniels will be coordinating the New England offense Saturday. “We change players routinely between teams and for that matter we change coaches routinely between teams,’’ said coach John Fox. “So I don’t think that’s anything new and different.’’ McDaniels directed the Broncos in 2009 and 2010 before being fired and moving on to become the Rams offensive coordinator this season. Since the Patriots have been dissecting every play of Denver’s season on film, the Broncos aren’t worried that McDaniels will have leftover inside intelligence to use against them. “We know who he is,’’ said running back Lance Ball. “It’s good he got another job. We’re ready to play him.’’

Pressing issue

Denver defensive end Elvis Dumervil blasted Brady so hard in the December meeting that Brady was still feeling it a day later. “Usually Brady gets the ball out fast, so for Elvis to get that type of hit on him, that’s great,’’ said linebacker Joe Mays. “It just shows the type of coverage we had on the back end and we’re going to need that a little more often this game.’’ Brady was sacked 32 times this season, the most he has been touched since 2003. The Broncos got to him twice, and they’ll need to pressure him this time. Brady passed for 320 yards, threw for two touchdowns, and rushed for another in the first meeting, dismantling the Broncos. At points, said safety Quinton Carter, it felt as though he knew what plays the Broncos defense was running. “He knew right where to go,’’ Carter said. “He knew the coverage. We’re going to have to try to get a bunch of guys in his face, make him get the ball off as quick as he can.’’

The candidate

The Rams reportedly have interest in Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen for their head coaching vacancy, and the team has given him permission to interview. “I don’t think it’ll be a distraction at all,’’ said Fox. “I think everybody’s focus is on the New England Patriots.’’ Allen was hired by the Broncos a year ago after serving as the Saints defensive backs coach. Linebacker Von Miller gave Allen an endorsement. “He’d be a great coach,’’ Miller said. “I’m sure he’d be a great head coach. He’s an Aggie. So I’m sure he’d be a great leader wherever. They’d get a consistent coach that’ll come in every day and push you, that’ll push all the players on the team to be a great player.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com; John Powers can be reached at jpowers@globe.com.

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